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MBA Oath How About an HR Oath

September 2, 2010
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Related Topics: The HR Profession, Corporate Culture, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
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Where there’s a need you’ll find a provider. That’s how the free market works, and that’s how this reality holds true for ethics as well as widgets.

Case in point: More than 2,000 MBA graduates have taken an MBA oath of ethics. Modeled after the Hippocratic Oath, MBAoath.org calls for MBAs to do the right thing first rather than automatically deferring to the thing that benefits them most. As you might expect, the MBA oath is a predictable response to the Wall Street meltdown of the last couple of years.

Here are a couple of points from the oath that caught my eye:

• “I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society.”

• “I will invest in developing myself and others, helping the management profession continue to advance and create sustainable and inclusive prosperity.”

Did you say, “Wow!” after you read the entire oath? This kind of stuff always brings out the cynic in me—the one that says you could save some trees by simply saying, “I promise not to screw others, or at the very least, have reasonable assurance that they plan on screwing me before I attempt to screw them.”

Now, that’s an effective MBA oath, don’t you think?

It reminds me that what the HR profession really needs isn’t respect, more business savvy or better metrics. We need an oath.

With that in mind, I present the following HR oath for your consideration. The HR oath is designed to be taken when someone passes the PHR or SPHR, and by anyone else in our industry who believes in the content of the oath, but thinks the current HRCI certification system is bunk.

The HR oath
(My comments are in brackets following each pledge.)

I, (state your name), member of the HR community, promise to:

Never say the phrase “seat at the table” again, unless I openly mock it and say it in the voice of the Church Lady or Samuel L. Jackson.
(I’m talking about the raised, agitated Samuel L. Jackson voice from “Pulp Fiction” or “Snakes on a Plane,” in part because he’s ultra-cool and always uses that voice in a way that makes you unsure whether he’s serious or not. It’s perfect for mocking this tired, overused phrase.)

Avoid dumping 15 to 50 candidates I secured via the “post and pray” model on the hiring manager, then encourage her to “take a look and see what she likes.”
(It’s true. If your HR function is still dumping candidates to the hiring manager to get initial feedback, it’s time to put on your big-boy pants and take some risks by acting like your opinions and business knowledge might be as important as the hiring manager’s. Cut it down, pronto. Present three to five candidates you’ve already talked to, like a real recruiter.)

Carve out two hours per week to do nothing but figure out a way for me to add value to the business.
(It’s nothing but you and a blank sheet of paper or a single blinking cursor on your laptop. What can you do that’s not currently being done that would help generate business results? The key phrase here is business results, not HR department results. There’s usually a difference, at least initially.)

Refrain from spending my entire personal development budget on the always-challenging “Employment Law Seminar 20XX” for the sixth straight year. 
(Human nature suggests we migrate to what we are most comfortable with. Use your professional development spend to start chasing skills that make you feel totally incompetent when the training begins. That’s a sure sign you’re doing something of value that will pay off in the long run.)

Speak up at the possible risk of my job when I see my boss or a peer doing something that blatantly runs counter to the people mission of our company.
(Not much else to say here, other than you have more leverage than you give yourself credit for.)

Never own or wear a sensible pair of shoes that make me look like a fool.
(I’m being a bit elitist with this one, because everyone who knows me clearly understands I’m not wearing Armani to the office. I’m not asking you to look like a supermodel or Tom Brady, just that you to dress and care a little bit about your sense of style, at least to the level of whatever the mean is within your workplace.)

Ship product regularly.
(If you don’t know what this means for an HR pro, the short take is creating and delivering something of value on a regular basis rather than just making sure the company HR trains run on time.)

Give a crap every day.
(Or get out of the business, because you’re depressing the rest of us with your lack of effort, originality and game when you mail it in every single day.)

That’s it. If you’re in, simply signify your commitment to the HR oath by leaving a comment. If that’s too public for you, take the lighter approach and click the “recommend” arrow at the top of this article.

For those of you who take the HR oath, maybe we’ll get together at SHRM 2011 in Vegas and party. Either way, we’ve got a leg up on the MBAs. Our oath is more realistic—and more fun.

Workforce Management Online, September 2010 -- Register Now!

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